Tenants who Test your Limits: Dealing with Delayed or Unpaid Rent

Property Management Blog

Are you dealing with a tenant who routinely delays rent, and demands concessions and waivers? Such a situation is exceedingly common, and it tends to get worse when the landlord adopts a lenient and understanding attitude. Delaying the rent once or twice is normal and can happen to anyone, but when it starts happening every month, it’s a problem that demands a firm approach.

There are dozens of tenants who test the landlord’s limits by continuously delaying their rent, and eventually, they stop paying altogether. Unfortunately, the regulations in most states and localities favor the tenants, and landlords are advised to handle such situations very tactfully. It’s wise to adopt a strict screening process and keep tenants who enjoy job stability and income security to avoid such issues.

However, chronic problem-givers can often escape the strictest of screening processes. Keep reading to learn how you can deal with tenants who continuously delay their rent and refuse to pay.

Approach the Situation Calmly

Your rental property is a significant source of income, and therefore, delays in the rental payment can disrupt your monthly budget. The situation is quite stressful and unpleasant, but you must approach it very calmly with a tactful approach.

Acting out on your impulses or letting your emotions get the best of you will not help in this situation. In fact, any harsh words exchanged between you and the tenant can result in property damage, or legal troubles. Therefore, it’s crucial to be as calm and respectful as possible. You need a balanced approach as being overly understanding will not encourage them to take responsibility and being overly strict can result in complications.

We advise a firm approach that issues a stern yet respectful warning against repeated delays and offenses. It’s essential to maintain a respectful and cautious tone, and present the tenant with a written notice as opposed to communicating the issue verbally. Many landlords shy away from communicating the problem in fear of losing their tenant. That’s a mistake that will lead to repeated delays and problematic behavior.

Use the Lease Agreement

As a landlord, the lease agreement is your most significant shield of defense against payment delays and unpaid rents, amongst other issues and problems. It’s crucial to use this shield of defense effectively to make an impact. While devising the lease agreement, be sure to dedicate several clauses to the rent payment protocols and deadlines.

You can use the federal, state and local legislation to support the clauses you want to add with regards to the rent payment. The lease agreement allows you to reserve the right to evict a tenant who causes unprecedented delays without a probable cause.

Schedule a Meeting

When written communication and notices don’t seem to work, scheduling an in-person meeting is the wisest choice to maintain accountability. A meeting is an ideal solution to hold your tenant accountable, and discuss the issues that are causing the rental delays. Sitting down with your tenant can help you understand whatever struggles he/she may be facing.

For instance, the delays could be as a result of a sudden medical emergency, job loss or other issues. Try to work out a temporary payment plan to help them catch up with their overdue rent and facilitate them during this emergency. However, do not give this opportunity to a tenant who doesn’t seem to take responsibility for their commitments.

You can explore several options, such as developing a one-time payment plan, charging late penalties, or serving the tenant a non-payment of rent notice.

Act Promptly & Decisively

It’s crucial to act promptly and decisively when the rent is delayed past the due date. Landlords who wait around for the tenant to perform their responsibility without bothering them for a few days encourage a habit of late payments.

Delays are extremely costly for landlords as they are responsible for maintenance and utilities. Therefore, we advise contacting the tenant immediately when the due date has crossed, and charging a late penalty fee.

Prioritize Written Communication

Dealing with problematic tenants who delay the rent payment and refuse to pay altogether is a tricky and complicated situation. If you plan on settling the matter legally and evicting your tenant, you need to maintain a proper record of all communication and documentation. You see, you will have to prove all your claims and arguments with evidence in a court of law.

Therefore, make sure that all communication, agreements and notices are delivered in writing and in person, so the tenant cannot deny receiving the notices and documents. Maintain accurate and comprehensive records of all the communication, receipts and notices to compile chronicles of your dealings with the tenant.

If you decide to give your tenant a grace period, or accept a relaxed payment plan, make sure this provision is made with a written agreement that is signed by both parties.

Discourage Partial Payments

Are you planning to evict your problematic tenant? In that case, it’s crucial to avoid accepting partial payments as it can complicate and delay the eviction process, thereby increasing your challenges. Partial payments should be discouraged under all circumstances as they encourage tenants to pay a lump sum amount and delay the remainder until the next payment is due.


The landlord-tenant relationship is governed by a series of federal, state and local regulations, most of which favor the tenant. Therefore, it’s crucial to consult a legal expert specializing in real estate before undertaking any drastic measures, like serving your tenant an eviction notice. If you plan on getting rid of the problematic tenant, maintaining transparency and records will prove immensely helpful.

We firmly advise landlords to adopt a strict and firm approach, and invest in a digital platform to maintain accountability and transparency. Establishing a streamlined rent collection process will prove immensely helpful. Consider sending alerts and reminders to your tenants a few days before the deadline, and adding a late fee penalty clause to the rental agreement.

If you’d like to talk more about property management, or you need help with Everest Property Management, please contact us at Everest Realty.

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